Some WestJet passengers to get COVID-19 tests before departing YVR

Initiative is part of a pilot project set to launch this fall

WestJet has not said which flights will be selected for the pilot project | WestJet

Some WestJet passengers departing Vancouver International Airport (YVR) this fall can expect to get COVID-19 tests before boarding. Neither WestJet nor the Vancouver Airport Authority (VAA), which runs the airport, however, has said which flights will be selected for this trial initiative. 

The airline and the VAA plan to launch a pilot project to test passengers for the novel coronavirus on some departing flights, according to an August 28 blog post written by WestJet CEO Ed Sims and VAA CEO Tamara Vrooman. 

"The pilot, which we aim to launch this fall, will incorporate current best practices on testing, pulling together industry players and experts to lead in the research and development of solutions that support aviation safety and slow the spread of COVID-19," they wrote.

"Why are we doing this? Our industry has always been heavily focused on safety and for us this pilot is a natural evolution of our historical commitment. It supports our efforts to uphold top safety standards, while instilling confidence for those who need to travel. It’s also about building collective knowledge and literacy, which will help inform longer-term solutions around communicable diseases."

The two said that they will share data with government and health authorities and partner with academia "to marry our expertise in passenger movements to science."

They said that their teams will "closely scrutinize the trial results to learn how we can further improve travel processes and evolve our safety measures as required."

Airlines have been losing substantial amounts of money as a result of people not wanting to get on airlines because of a fear that they will contract the deadly disease that has spawned a global pandemic. Fueling that fear is the fact that WestJet and many other airlines are selling the middle seats in rows. 

WestJet defended this practice in July, when it said in a blog post: "Seat distancing was never intended to be in place permanently or throughout the pandemic. What makes an airplane, and the entire journey, safe is the layers of enhanced cleaning, the wearing of masks and the hospital-grade HEPA filters that remove 99.999 per cent of all airborne particles. The hygiene standards we have now are world-class and backed by industry experts."

Flair Airlines CEO Jim Scott told BIV in May that his airline was selling all available seats, including middle seats, because safety measures were sufficient – even though B.C. provincial health officer Bonnie Henry has stressed that social distancing is more important than wearing masks.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom